Big tip! “More so than any of my other music, I don’t feel that these works belong to me,” Bertucci writes. “There is something about them that is beyond myself as an individual and provides, if anything, a brief glimpse into what it is to be human in what feels like these waning days of the Anthropocene.” Working with instrumentation in the ancient “just intonation” tuning structure (in which notes are spaced exclusively at whole-number ratios of frequencies) and a textural approach to composition, even commonly-heard timbres such as cello, harp and double bass in Of Shadow and Substance are afforded a sense of deep, ancestral knowing.
The record opens with “Vapours”, whose contemplative, semi-improvisational, interflowing lines of acoustic instrumentation swell and expand like the passage of time, as if revealing an ancient, eternal memory, old as humanity itself. Its spacious, mutable open strings and droning harmonies do not favour a soloist or even any single melody, but instead blur and coalesce into one entity, drifting from consonance to discordance in harmonic clusters. A dizzying middle section gives rise to a sense of panic, pulling the strands of languid, drifting vapours into a volatile tumult before resettling into a misty, atmospheric trancestate. Bertucci writes: “A “vapor” is a molecule that exists on the verge between a liquid, gaseous or solid state, and the archaic term “vapours” was a pseudo-scientific term to diagnose types of hysteria in women.” The piece was commissioned and performed by Italy’s Quartetto Maurice, who were prompted to visualise vapours in air and to meditate on hysteric fits as they play, while Bertucci controls the sonic space with subtle processing and spatial mixing.
The latter half of the album - just as moving and evocative - comprises the composition “Of Shadow and Substance” for double bass, cello, harp, percussion and electronics commissioned by the Philadelphia creative foundation ARS Nova Workshop and performed by Henry Fraser, Lester St. Louis, Lucia Stravros and Matt Evans. “This piece measures the accumulation of events over glacial periods of time as a metaphor for social and environmental shifts,” Bertucci tells us. “It is a meditation on time travel, asking the listener to consider the way events from the past propel themselves into the future.” Its construction reflects the strange concertina of time we find in recorded history, suspended densely in the moveable centre of an empty space. Using experimental mixing techniques, Bertucci loops and layers fragments of the performance in real-time, resulting in a diffuse, swirling, self-referential mass of experience, both familiar and metamorphic.
Lea Bertucci is a New York-based artist, composer and performer whose work describes relationships between acoustic phenomena and biological resonance. In addition to her longstanding practice with woodwind instruments, her work incorporates multichannel speaker arrays, radical methods of free improvisation and creative misuses of audio technology applied to field recording and sampling/collage techniques. Her discography spans over a decade, with eight full-length solo albums and a number of collaborative projects. In 2021 she founded her own imprint, Cibachrome Editions, to focus on releasing her own music. The title Of Shadow and Substance is a reference to an episode of cult TV favourite The Twilight Zone.